Issue #1, February 2010, 22 pg. at half-letter size
Issue #2, September 2010, 22 pg. at half-letter size
Issue #3, March 2011, 22 pg. at half-letter size
$2 each from Stranger Danger Distro
As someone who doesn’t play music, but cares a lot about that stuff, and has a lot of friends involved in various musical endeavours, I’m always curious about what being a musician is like. I write and draw, both more or less solitary pursuits, and so working in an art form that’s dependent on collaboration with others strikes me as sometimes appealing, and sometimes like a giant hassle I’m glad to avoid.
The various issues of this zine talk about different aspects of being a female musician, with emphasis on how relationships with bandmates, fans, other musicians and people involved in music, play out in Jen’s experiences playing with The Ambulars.
In Issue 1, Jen writes about forming her first band with some close friends. I found it really endearing how much space she devotes to talking about her friendships with her bandmates and how much they mean to her. She also describes her history with music, some of the band’s first shows, and their first recording session and the feelings all of these brought up for her. I, too, am all about recognizing and acknowledging the importance of pals, and I also appreciate a counterpart to selfish, dudely music narratives, so I really enjoyed this.
Issue #2 is about touring, and draws on diaries that Jen kept while on tour with the band. In part, it’s a dreamy, enviable montage of good times (picture a Monkees video), but she’s also honest about panic attacks, periods, and misogyny, and how she dealt with them. She also writes about being proud of having her own gear but self-conscious about having low-end gear, getting to see their records being pressed from “globs of vinyl”, vegan biscuits, stinky tour vans, and the joys of “obnoxiously supportive” friends. She also talks a little bit about how to encourage girls and women to get into playing music, which is a theme developed a lot more in Issue #3.
In the third issue of Jen(ny) Ambular, Jen writes about volunteering as a counsellor at Girls Rock Camp Chicago, which sounds amazing. She writes that despite the counsellors having different backgrounds and perspectives,
“being universally armed with the knowledge that we live in a society that sets up roadblocks to women gathering in groups and enjoying each others’ company sans competitiveness and cattiness, and not wanting to fall prey to that trope, bolsters our resolve to keep everything as productive and healthy as possible.”
She gets to act as a mentor to a group of preteen girls, and one of teenagers, whose creativity inspire her to exclaim, “could my eyes turn into hearts any faster”? She also has interesting things to say about the value of being an amateur (“One of the rights of people in punk is to suck”) and takes on the stereotype of the token female bassist. All in all, it’s a really fun, inspiring, thought-provoking zine.
Jen’s writing is conversational and funny. The experiences she writes about are really interesting, and the way she talks about them evinces a lot of thought. She often brings up interesting ideas I wish she’d go into greater depth about, but I guess I’m just gonna have to keep reading her zine.
I’d really recommend this zine to anyone who is interested in the joys that playing music can bring, especially anyone who isn’t a dude and/or an experienced musician. But it’s also great for dorks like me who will probably definitely never be in a band and want to live vicariously through folks who are.
- Lily Pepper
a super kind and well-written review of some of my older zines. it’s so hard to have any perspective when something you wrote is a few years old and all you can see are the things you wish you’d written or done differently. thanks for this, lily!